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302                                                                                                             B- POtEVOl

evil; in the bushes in the hollow, having recovered from
its day-time fear, a nightingale sang, at first hesitatingly,
as if trying its voice, or tuning an instrument, and then
with full throat, trilling and twittering as if its heart would
burst at the sounds of its own music. Its song was taken up
by others, and soon the whole front line rang with the me-
lodious trilling that came from all sides. No wonder the
nightingales of Kursk are famous throughout the world!

And now they were making the welkin ring with their
song. Alexei, who was to go up for a trial next day, not
before a commission, but before death itself, was kept
awake by this nightingale chorus. And his thoughts were
taken up not with the morrow, not with the forthcoming
battle, not with the possibility of being killed, but with
the distant nightingale that had once sung for them in the
suburbs of Kamyshin, with "their" nightingale, with Olya,
with his native town.

The eastern sky paled. Gradually the trilling of the
nightingales was drowned by the noise of gun-fire. The
sun rose slowly over the battlefield, large and red, scarcely
able to penetrate the dense smoke of shots and explosions.

The Battle of the Kursk Salient continued with un-
relaxing fury. The original plan of the Germans to smash
our fortifications south and north of Kursk by swift,
powerful blows with tanks, and, by a pincers operation,
surround the whole of the Kursk group of the Soviet
Army and organise a "German Stalingrad" there, was
frustrated by the staunchness of the defence. After a few
days the German Command realised that they would be
unable to break through this defence and that, even if
they did succeed in doing so, their losses would be so
heavy that they would not have enough forces left for the
pincers operation, but it was too late to stop. Hitler had
placed too much hope—strategical, tactical and political
—upon this operation. The avalanche was let loose. It
rushed downhill with increasing momentum, sweeping up
and carrying with it everything in its way; those who
had let it loose had not the power to stop it. The Ger-
mans* advance was measured in kilometres, their losses